Quinoa mix
Quinoa appeared on 8.8% of all menus Datassential covered in its MenuTrends service in 2016.

Quinoa leading the way

The ancient grain quinoa penetrated, or was found, on 8.8% of all menus that market research company Datassential covered in its MenuTrends service in 2016. Farro was found on 3%.

“Quinoa has helped elevate the popularity of other grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, chia, millet, sorghum, hemp and teff,” Ms. Bouchard said.

Several ingredient suppliers mention teff as a potential break-out ingredient in 2017.

Teff and rye both could have big years, said Katie Harris, product development specialist for Bay State Milling Co., Quincy, Mass. Teff has gained in popularity because of its micronutrient content, including high amounts of calcium, iron and magnesium, she said. It offers a well-rounded flavor profile.

Teff whole grain bread
Teff has gained in popularity because of its micronutrient content.

“Unlike most grains, it lacks raw grain taste and bitterness, making it appealing to consumers because it has a nutty, toasted flavor profile,” Ms. Harris said.

The flavor profile allows teff to work well in sweet goods. It also may boost flavor and nutrition in dark bread like pumpernickel.

“Obtaining a desirable flavor in gluten-free products can be challenging, but teff can deliver flavor to these applications,” she said. “In its whole grain format, teff is also a small grain that is easy and quick to cook, making it a great inclusion for a porridge, side dish or topping to baked goods.”

Rye also has a desirable flavor profile along with high fiber content, she said. It may be the main ingredient in both commercial and artisanal bread. A nutty flavor profile makes rye a good fit for sweet goods, and rye may boost the fiber content of a porridge or a side dish.

Rye crackers
Rye has a desirable flavor profile along with high fiber content.

“Rye has less gluten-forming proteins than wheat, which can make it challenging for some manufacturers to work with,” Ms. Harris said. “However, many bakers embrace this difference and produce excellent artisan-style bread with rye, which are becoming more popular with the general public.”

Jeff Stopa, senior scientist and research chef for ADM, mentioned teff and farro.

“The earthy flavor and crunchy texture of teff adds interest to crackers and cereals, and teff flour adds complexity to leavened and flat breads,” he said. “Farro contributes a luxurious texture and tender bite to chilled grain salads and complex cooked-grain side dishes. Also, 100% whole grain sorghum flour offers good water-binding capacity and texture for cookies and biscuit applications.”

Amaranth and teff have room for growth, and ancient wheats like farro, emmer and einkorn have unique appeal, said Beth Arndt, a formulator for Panhandle Milling, Dawn, Texas.

Bowl of freekeh
Freekeh imparts smoky, roasted notes, a chewy texture and longer shelf life.

“There is even more opportunity for breakout growth in grains that are prepared in a manner to change their typical flavor and texture,” she said. “Freekeh, which originated in the Middle East, is immature/green wheat that has been roasted and then dried. The roasting and drying of the green wheat imparts smoky, roasted notes, a chewy texture and longer shelf life.

“Bulgur, prepared from the cooking and drying of wheat, is another example of how the preparation method can influence the flavor and texture to create something that stands out from the norm.”

Efforts to grow quinoa domestically — it more frequently is grown in South America — are reducing criticism of quinoa being imported and traveling far distances from origin to table, said David Sheluga, director, consumer insights, Ardent Mills, Denver. The Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., featuring quinoa in one of its new Well Yes! soup varieties also signals an increasingly more mainstream appeal, he said.

Quinoa, sorghum, amaranth and millet are trending, said Brian Anderson, Ph.D., vice-president of innovation and marketing for Bunge in St. Louis. The ancient grains may contribute texture, flavor and sustainability stories, he said. Bars, yogurts, cereal and baked foods are potential applications.

“Some ancient grains impart an earthy or nutty flavor that many find appealing and can contribute an enjoyable, crunchy texture, as well,” Dr. Anderson said. “From a color perspective, it depends on the grain. Ancient grains are also a great way to incorporate natural colors in an application. We offer both red and white millet, white sorghum and white quinoa.

“Not only do ancient grains deliver desirable taste, texture and color, they also have compelling stories of origin, bringing a unique appeal to the foods that many people consume every day.”

Whole grain items may differ by the source of wheat variety, too.

“Red and white whole wheat differ in both color and flavor,” said Rachel Warner, director of national accounts for Grain Craft, Chattanooga, Tenn. “White whole wheat is much brighter due to the characteristic light colored bran. In addition, white whole wheat has a milder flavor due to the absence of bitter tannins associated with red colored bran in red whole wheat. In both types, finer texture or granulation seems to be preferred as bran particles in finished products are less obvious.”